1/10/2018 12:03:00 PM / John Gurtler
Before the start of the game against Calgary last Saturday night, the attention was centered around the 9-foot-3-inch radius of the goaltenders crease and the 4-foot-9-inch separation of wickets. The challenge, or I should say command, was: Make some saves.
In addition, out of a closed-door players-only meeting after the Toronto game, the entire team invested themselves in an honest effort and playing hard for each other. That challenge was issued by team captain Steve Priolo.
"The first game, we did it and things went our way. When you get behind a couple [goals], it’s hard," said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley on his interpretation from the captain. It was a basic message.
"It should strengthen us to overcome some of these issues. It's consistency. We show signs of brilliance and unbelievable offensive movement and commitment to our little things that we have instilled. They should know these things and should do them.
"Then we have brain cramps for whatever reason and that results in the ball going into our net. We have to eliminate that and be mentally strong for 60-minutes of the game.
"Sometimes players want to score the goal, taking it upon themselves, instead of the team wanting to score the goal, and that takes away from the game plan. When you get away from the plan, you don't get good results."
But all of the players took it to heart Saturday night inside KeyBank Center and turned in a solid performance on all areas of the turf, posting a convincing 13-8 victory over the Roughnecks.
And goaltender Alex Boque, making adjustments, was outstanding turning aside 44 Calgary shots on goal.
"Our job is all about adjustments – adjusting to the play, whether it’s a far shot or close in tight," Buque, who held Calgary to under two goals in the second, third and fourth quarters, said.
"You are always moving depending on where the situation is. It's not set where you’re going to be, it’s how you’re going to be there to make the stop. I am always trying to see how the play is going, and where they are shooting. But it’s always the adjustment game for me personally.
"It’s taken a little bit of time, you know, but all we have to do is buy into the coaches’ program and we'll go from there."
From an overview of this indoor game, stop and think about the offensive explosions happening around the NLL - and we are only five weeks in!
It's incredibly hard to play goal.
"It’s always been tough. You’re supposed to be there all the time," Buque said. "You know the old saying, it might be your own fault if the ball passes you. I just try and not think about that, move forward and always try and go for the next save. At the end of the day, I have to look for that ball."
In addition to protecting that 4-foot-by-4-foot-by-9-inch space, there is the responsibility of communicating and directing players out on the floor in front of him.
"Obviously you can see the whole floor and you’ve got to let everybody know where the ball is, and also supporting and telling players where they need to be. I do my fair share [of communicating], but I try to focus on the game itself and I have my own job to do.
"As long as I fall into the team's program, I should be good to go. We have to be talking all the time – just knowing what each other want on the floor. It's just hard work right now."
On the other side of the glass, Buque is blown away by the loyal fans of Banditland.
"I really love the environment here, we have a great fan base and they are always willing to support our team. I love the screaming fans. It's just the fact that sometimes you don't hear it because you are so focused on it, but when you get a moment and look around, it's an awe moment."
Saturday night's victory over Calgary featured a full onslaught of good defense, scoring in transition, some nifty set plays and second effort by the offense. In all, 13 Bandit players contributed in scoring with a point or more. Jordan Durston had a breakout night with a hat trick and two assists.
But the Bandits transition game was most impressive, witness the two goals by Kevin Brownell, and congratulations to Justin Martin for his first NLL goal, set up by rookie Ethan Schott, playing in his first game (his first point as well).
"We have to believe in ourselves and keep our expectations high," noted Cordingley. "My biggest thing is to challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge every little battle and push for the victory."
To look good is to feel good. I would say the Bandits looked pretty good. And they had the support of you - the fans of Banditland.
The homestand continues Saturday night as Vancouver comes to town. The Bandits are 2-0 now on home turf. It's Hometown Heroes Night with ticket specials for our police, firefighters, first-responders and military personnel. Click here for more info.
The Stealth come to town with an 0-4 record and were soundly beaten by Toronto 24-7 this past weekend.
Dhane Smith (2+3 on Saturday) starts the week in third place of league scoring with six goals and 17 assists for 23 points. The Great Dhane is tied with Toronto's Adam Jones for the loop lead in assists. Mitch Jones (1+3) is in 9th with eight goals and nine assists.
Callum Crawford continues to display is offensive prowess with a four-goal, one-assist performance Saturday night. Crawford leads the club in goals with nine and is tied for 10th in league scoring (9+7).
Defenseman Steve Priolo is second in league scoring among defensemen with a goal and seven assists for eight points. The Bandits captain had three assists Saturday night.
Rookie Josh Byrne leads all rookies with four goals and seven assists for 11 points. Chase Fraser is tied for third with four goals and two assists. Nick Weiss and Colorado's Joey Cupido share the lead in shorthanded goals with two.
Our broadcast Saturday night will start with the pregame show at 7 p.m. on ESPN 1520 AM here in Buffalo and WGWE 105.9FM in Salamanca. Rookie Josh Byrne will be our “Players Perspective” guest and we'll have a 1-on-1 talk with Coach Cordingley.
Randy Mearns, fresh off his induction to the Western New York Lacrosse Hall of Fame Saturday afternoon (along with John Tavares), will join me in the booth. Dave Buchanan will be between the benches.
Faceoff is set for 7:30. You can watch the game on NLLTV.com and CBS Sports Digital through subscription service.